Cheney: Lima must change to succeed

By Craig Kelly -


Keith Cheney addresses The Lima News editorial board during a roundtable. Cheney, chairman of the Allen County Republican Party and a local businessman, wants Lima voters to pick him Tuesday.

Keith Cheney addresses The Lima News editorial board during a roundtable. Cheney, chairman of the Allen County Republican Party and a local businessman, wants Lima voters to pick him Tuesday.

Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News

Keith Cheney said he’d like to see more efforts spent by law enforcement and code enforcement in cleaning up neighborhoods.

Keith Cheney said he’d like to see more efforts spent by law enforcement and code enforcement in cleaning up neighborhoods.

Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News


See a video of this roundtable, plus see past coverage of the election at

LIMA — For Lima mayoral candidate Keith Cheney, the incumbent mayor has been in office long enough.

A former chief operating officer for Certified Convenience Stores and the current chairman of the Allen County Republican Party, Cheney said his political experience and business acumen will serve him well as Lima’s chief executive.

Cheney recently sat down with The Lima News editorial board to make his final case for becoming the city’s next mayor. Here is an excerpt:

What do you think are the strengths and opportunities for the city of Lima?

The strengths are our people, without a doubt, the citizens that make up this fine city. The opportunities, I believe, in many cases, have not been there for the citizens to succeed in a manner of which I would like to see them succeed. When I talk about the city of Lima, Ohio, one-third of our residents are living below the poverty line. That is absolutely unacceptable in a Keith Cheney administration.

The strengths which we also have are being in a quadrant of a number of state routes, as well as an Interstate system. So when you look at the ability for businesses to get to Lima or export their product, whether it’s by semi or rail, there are some great opportunities, which makes us uniquely placed. There again, I think our city has not taken full opportunity of that system that’s in place.

I tie that back to the way the City of Lima currently does business. It’s simply in a non-business friendly manner. I have met with a number of business individuals who have either looked to do business in Lima or are doing business in Lima. Whether it was an expansion of their business or a redevelopment of their business, there are just so many cumbersome roadblocks, that it’s quite easier to go somewhere else and conduct business. That has to change for all the opportunities to open up to our citizens.

You’ve talked about some of the weaknesses. What are some of the threats that we face?

The greatest threat we face is competition from other municipalities. The big one we always hear about is Findlay, and it’s forever a discussion, whether it’s in the coffee shops, the restaurants or in people’s homes. They talk about, “Findlay has this, and Findlay has that.”

Let me tell you a couple of things that businesses look at when they decide where they’re going to locate. One of them, obviously, is median household income. What monies are available for individuals to have discretionary spending or spending where they’re going to decide where to shop, eat and entertain themselves? The Findlay median household income far outweighs Lima’s. As a matter of fact, according to the United States Census, over the past 28 years, using equivalent dollars of 2016, the median household income in Lima, Ohio, has declined by $4,177. So that’s one of the biggest threats we have.

The other thing that a business looks at is what are the crime rates because, obviously, they have to look at crime. For a number of years, this administration has attempted to play that off as a myth or a perception. Liars can figure, but figures don’t lie. When you look at the 2016 Uniform Crime Report presented by the Lima Police Department to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it is very simple. Our serious and violent crimes have raised by 10 percent.

So the two threats that face Lima as we look at bringing in new business and convincing people to come here are household income as well as our crime.

You address the first one to get to the second one, and I certainly will address the crime issue in a much more rapid fashion than the current administration has.

Let’s talk money. You’ve talked a lot about adding police to fight crime, and you’ve also mentioned a proposal for building a new fire station. What specific areas of the budget would you cut to make room for these projects?

With crime, you either pay on the front side or pay on the back side. This administration has decided to pay on the back side by the loss of businesses and by individuals who have moved out of this city because they no longer want to be a part of a crime-ridden city. The population has dropped nearly 8,000 individuals. Those are income tax-paying individuals, which obviously lowers your income.

There are opportunities, I am certain, within that budget, and the one thing that I will implement immediately is LCSI — Lima Common Sense Initiatives. That will be where every single city department will have a thorough evaluation to determine their policies, procedures, rules and regulations, which, ultimately, will result in cost-saving measures, not only in finances, but also in time.

There are many avenues where things can be done differently. To address where you’re going to get the money for the extra police officers, first of all, this administration has decided to build up a net worth laying in a bank account of $8 million. That’s on the back of the city residents. That’s on the back of not being willing to provide the safety necessary to keep them safe in their homes and businesses and on the street.

The same thing can be said about fire. This administration closed two fire stations, one on West Spring Street, which dramatically affects the residents of the 4th and 7th Wards. It dramatically increases the response time. A fire burns at double the rate every single minute. The current fire protection for the 4th and 7th Wards comes out of the Main Street fire station. That is a lot longer than having a station in the heart of the 4th and 7th Wards sitting on Spring Street.

The other one that was closed, and is just as concerning, if not more, the response time to Lima Memorial Hospital was literally a minute and a half. The best response time today to get to the hospital sitting in the 3rd Ward is approximately seven to eight and a half minutes. Keeping in mind that a fire doubles every minute it’s alive, that puts a lot of families’ properties and, more important, their lives at risk.

So when you look at building a better city where you increase the income tax base, not the income tax, which my opponent supported twice and which I will never support, you make cuts where cuts make sense, and I believe in this particular case, that’s in the operations of many of our departments.

You mentioned the Lima Common Sense Initiatives and a departmental review. How long do you think that review would take? Is there a particular order you would review the departments in?

I’ll tell you exactly where I will start. I’ll start with the employees. For too many years, if not forever, the actual employees have been left out of the government system and they simply are expected to come to work, do their eight hours and go home.

I learned in business that you can sit in a board room or sit in a plush office and you realize you make no money there. The money’s made out on the street, and in my particular business, it was made in our convenience stores where the most important people, the cashiers, were. In the city, you look at each department and, just in talking to different individuals that work in different departments throughout the city, they have some great ideas. They’ve never been asked to share those ideas. They can figure out ways that are cost-saving measures. So they will be a part of this.

How soon will this start? It will start immediately. My department heads will immediately be given a directive. It will be laid out in a format where these are the questions I want answered. I will be an active participant in that and will encourage every single employee of the city to participate. That is where the best ideas sometimes come from.

I also think that we have stagnation after 28 years, that many of these individuals have been at their jobs for many years as department heads, and so it’s get up, go to work, do your job and go home. Fresh, new energy coming into a business, or a city in this case, can offer vibrancy. The old adage says, “We’ve always done it this way, so that’s the way we’re going to do it” doesn’t work in a Keith Cheney world. I want to look at things from the inside, saying, “Okay, just because we’ve always done it this way, is there a better, more cost efficient way of doing it?” and take that into consideration when making changes.

Looking at the economy, where do you see the economy heading in the next few years, and as mayor, what effect would that have on the way you would want to run the city?

In today’s Lima that we live, I don’t see a thriving economy. It reminds me that, starting in 1999, Dave Berger promised that Global Energy was coming to Lima, Ohio. It was going to bring with it good paying jobs, and that would be the salvation to Lima’s economic downturn. He rode that wave for many, many years, for many election cycles — four election cycles, to be factual. As a matter of fact, The Lima News wrote an article, “Where is Global?” back in 2008. His response to the article was, “Those who are skeptical will remain skeptical. That is their privilege,” Berger said. “But I am absolutely confident that it will happen.’”

That was July of 2008. In March of 2015, when they filed bankruptcy, Berger, a longtime supporter of the project, continued to say that he hoped the bankruptcy would help the project. Well, the final result is a concrete pad that lays out on South Metcalf Street that looks like a swimming pool when it rains and cost this community many, many dollars in time, effort and finances and tax monies, and ultimately, we got nothing.

That’s not going to happen. I have already met with investors, entrepreneurs and businesses that have assured me, when I’m elected mayor, that they will come to Lima, bring their business to Lima and do business in Lima. I am confident that will happen, and some of these jobs are not entry-level jobs. But the bottom line is that we have to be a business friendly community. I can change that on day one, to open our arms to the opportunities that are there.

You were talking about speaking with businesses. Just to follow up, are there any you can point to publicly at this point?

No, and I’ll tell you why I won’t. That puts their business venture in jeopardy, and one of the worst things you can do is jump out there and say that such-and-such company is going to come to Lima, and that exploits them to the opportunity of competition coming or exploits them to cost-driven negatives that they don’t need. But I will say this: Hold me accountable.

Can you classify what kind of jobs? Are you talking manufacturing? Retail? Service?

They are a culmination of many different jobs.

Along those same lines, let me ask you what your view is of the work that the Allen Economic Development Group has been doing.

I think the formation of the new AEDG group is going to be very, very beneficial to Lima and Allen County. When you look at the person they’ve put in place to run that organization, being Jeff Sprague, Jeff is a very sound business-friendly oriented type of individual who understands that we have to be a friend to business. He’s willing to work the long hours, to go out and do the necessary things to make businesses want to come to Lima and Allen County. The same can be said with the leadership on the business end of it, where you have Mike Swick from Lima Memorial and Phil Buell from Superior, who are two very successful, sound business individuals.

The new structure of AEDG, I believe, will give us an advantage in being able to go out and court new businesses to come into Lima, as well as supporting existing businesses that want to expand. I’m very pleased with what I see out of that organization. I look forward to working with them.

Shifting gears a little bit, we know that there are a lot of people in the city who are trying to improve their lot in life, and we know there are some programs in place to try to help them. Some people would say that those are not connecting with each other. So what role should the mayor play in helping bridge that gap?

Communication. Communication is the easiest answer there is. And that doesn’t mean sitting in the glass house or traveling all over the United State with the mayoral association to benefit your personal gains of, “Here’s who I am.” It means being on the ground in the city of Lima, taking those programs, working directly with them and making sure that the citizens understand what’s available.

All too often, it’s simply a lack of communication. You have to go out in the neighborhoods, as I have done throughout this campaign, talk with the individuals, find out what their needs are and then relate those needs to the programs that are available for them. It’s no different than the heroin epidemic or the illicit drug epidemic that we face today.

You don’t see advertising up on billboards or advertising in other formats where it explains to individuals, “Here’s the programs that are available.” That’s shameful. He spends $35,000 on advertising promoting how great downtown is, especially over the last six weeks, great political advertising at the cost of the city.

Look, let’s fix the crime downtown first, make it safe and bring people downtown, but let’s use those those dollars instead to explain the programs available to our citizens to help them.

You’re exactly right. There are many, many residents in this city that are looking for a way out, looking for hope.

Just to be clear, you’re talking about utilizing public money to promote the particular programs that would aid these folks. Correct?

Absolutely. I mean, look, you use those funds for advertising, whether you’re promoting coming downtown or to one of the other sectors of Lima. You also use part of those funds to say, “If you’re struggling, we’re here to help.” In many cases, people are just looking for hope and help.

How do you convince the African American community that their issues are important to you? Your paths really haven’t crossed.

I personally came up with the theme of my campaign: “A Better Lima for All.” That was easy to do because that’s what I believe in. I’ve watched the current administration every four years go to the black community and say to them, “Come aboard, vote for me and I’ll do this, this and this for you.” I’ve watched that miserably fail.

Today, as we sit here, there is one — one — black police officer on the streets in Lima, Ohio. That department currently consists of 77 active officers and four in the academy. That’s a dismal, shameful percentage of black police officers on our streets. We have a city that is between 26 and 28 percent black. That department should be representative of that population. There’s nothing that’s been done to turn that around in 28 years. In fact, it’s went south.

I also attended every function that I was invited to attend, whether it was the Black Ministerial Association’s town hall or whether it was the two debates hosted by the NAACP. Look, that’s my job, to go out and not pick and choose who I’m going to represent or who I’m going to meet with, as my opponent did, and use some lame excuse that he doesn’t agree with the president of the NAACP.

Let me tell you, if he doesn’t agree, he should join the organization and place his vote on the next ballot when they elect a president. I believe that that organization selected who they want to be president. That’s not my choice. That’s theirs. I respect that organization the same as I respect every organization in the city of Lima that is legitimate. So therefore, if you put up your block and tackle program instead of going out and meeting the residents or talking with those organizations, you’re never going to truly accomplish anything in the minority community.

I have established a very good relationship throughout that community, and I will continue to foster that relationship, and when I’m mayor, I will continue to attend those events, have an open door policy and work with the minority community the same as I will any other ethnic individuals in our city.

Do you have any specific ideas on how to recruit more African American officers?

I sure do, and I find it hard to believe this hasn’t been done, but maybe it’s because you don’t have the relationship with law enforcement that I’m fortunate to have. Look, we have a number of black law enforcement officers that have now retired. We have some active black officers on the Allen County Sheriff’s Office. Go to those individuals. Make them a partner with the mayor and the Lima Police Department and go to the schools. Talk to the young people. Explain the opportunities of what a great job that really is.

Also, you can look at not just going to the high schools. Go to the middle schools. It’s sort of funny that, when you go to elementary schools and you talk to students and say, “Who do you want to be?” and I don’t care what ethnic group they’re from, the majority of kids will tell you, “I want to be a policeman.” “I want to be a fireman.” Then, as they grow older, all of a sudden, that changes. So at one time, that may have been a child’s dream.

I believe that, if done properly, and you go and take the job to them, you’ll have a much more successful rate. It’s a case where sometimes individuals are more comfortable talking with people that they can relate to easier than myself. So I would go right to those officers and talk with those kids and let those officers tell them, “Here’s why I made my decision to become a policeman. Here’s how it has benefitted me in my life and here’s what I’ve been able to provide for my family.

You just mentioned that you support any legitimate organization that’s in the city of Lima. Do you have an example of an organization that you wouldn’t consider legitimate?

No, none. But just in case a radical group would all of a sudden decide that they have no attachment to anybody, such as an ISIS organization, look, we’re done.

ISIS and the KKK are out, then?

That’s exactly correct, and I don’t condone either one of their actions.

Can you give us an example of how you found compromise with a group of people you don’t typically agree with?

Normally, I’m a pretty easy-going guy. That just goes to communication. Whether you’re having a debate at your family dining room table or you don’t fully agree with an individual, that individual has their beliefs, and they strongly believe, just like you may believe on the other side of the aisle. So listen to them and then determine, “Okay, let’s find some median way to get through this.”

Quite frankly, I can’t give you an exact example because I haven’t had that happen. I’m more of the type of individual who sits back, listens to what their point of view is and then intertwines it with my beliefs and comes to a median in the road that says, “Okay, we’re going to both get a little bit here.”

It reminds me a bit of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. A very strong Democrat and a very strong Republican were able to move America forward coming out of a dire financial strait that hit us negatively with the President Carter administration, where we had double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates and unemployment rates at an all-time high, short of the Depression.

It was sort of unique how they operated. In public, you would have thought they were two titans going to battle. But that was all for show, because they were the best of friends. They continually, every week, at least once, if not twice, a week had dinner together.

What they would do is they would determine that Speaker O’Neill wanted this, and he really wanted it. Reagan knew that those votes may not be there from that side of the aisle. So what he would do is he would say, “All right, Tip, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you that one, but you go in there and say you want two things, and I’ll look good because you’re only going to get one.”

And then they would flip flop that and do the opposite when Reagan really wanted something that Speaker O’Neill knew his people weren’t going to support. But he would go to them and say, “The president says he wants this and that. He wants three things, and we’re not giving them to him.”

Tip would negotiate with his own people and come out and ultimately give the president what he really wanted. So there was a very good line of communication that they built and a trust between the two of them that said, “We’re going to move America forward, but this is how we’re going to do it.”

Do you describe yourself as more principled or more pragmatic?

I don’t think you separate the two of them in their entirety. The principles I believe in are the principles that I believe in.

However, that simply goes along with the good book, and I’m not going to violate what’s in the Bible. That’s very simple. But if it’s a point of view that I have economically or in a structure like that where I realize that the other individual may have a better way of getting to the end of the road, then you know what? I’m going to take a hard look at that, and if it’s the way we can get to the end of the road for the success of this city, that’s what we’re going to do.

So sometimes the ends justify the means?

Absolutely, as long as they are legal, legitimate and ethical.

Getting back to downtown, what would your assessment be of the Rhodes State project?

I’m a businessman, and I thought it was a pretty good media opportunity for the mayor to stand there with the president of Rhodes State right before the primary vote was taken, bring all the equipment in downtown, tear down some buildings and then leave and plant grass. So we now have greenspace.

They still do not have resolution to the properties they do not own. In business, I have never ever purchased a new property or went to remodel a store where I bring all the equipment in, I tear something down and then I plant grass because I was going to wait to buy the building next to the facility. That’s costly. Once all of that equipment was downtown, it should not have been brought downtown for a political pot with the media. That should have been brought downtown when every property had been acquired and you were ready to start that project. That’s bad business and that’s costly.

Currently, the project originally was set to cost $20 million, and that goes back three years ago. As we all know, costs rise the longer you wait, so my first concern is: Have they reevaluated the true cost factors of the project?

My second concern is the total monies that are needed for that project. I lobbied on behalf of Rhodes State to the Board of Regents and, successfully, they gave us $5 million. I lobbied to the State Legislature through a fund they have available, and they gave us $5 million. That’s half of the money that, at the time, was needed for the project. The mayor said that the city would give the project $3 million, and that money would come through the hotel/motel bed tax. That fund currently sits at just over $600,000, and at the rate of growth of that fund, there is no one in Lima alive today that will ever see that fund ever get to $3 million. So I question where the rest of that money is going to come from.

Rhodes State was responsible for the other $7 million. Their goal is to raise that from the private sector. I would like to see that be a little more aggressive on raising that money so that we knew they, in fact, were going to be able to raise that money and move this project forward.

Many people in the community believe that the existing mayor has played a critical role in economic development, from bringing a hotel downtown to the YMCA to saving the refinery to sidewalks on the streets. What do you say to those who believe that he played an active role in that and supported that?

First of all, that’s his job, and he’s been paid very well to do his job. You pick out individual things, and I have never been an individual that uses the “I” concept. I use the “team” concept. There are things that I do that I’m not going to stand up and say that I’ve done.

Look, he has done some good things for this community, and I’ll be the first to stand up and say that. They were not done because he was in shining armor riding a horse. There are many individuals who put forth efforts.

With the refinery, again it goes back to threats. I want to share this with you because, again, this is factual. When the mayor twice supported raising income tax, his argument to voters was that if we don’t get this income tax, the city’s going to go broke. You can look that up. That’s fact. Well, obviously, they were soundly defeated and the city didn’t go broke. To say that the refinery was ever going to close is simply a statement that you could never back by fact. [BP was] going to close it, but trust me, another oil company would come in and buy that refinery. If you were to start today and want to build a new refinery in the United States of America, it would take you a minimum of 30 years before your first byproduct ever goes through that refinery, and that’s due to regulations at the federal level and government involvement. 30 years.

If you want to add on to a refinery and expand your current operation, it is approximately 10 years to expand a refinery. So the opportunities for an oil company to have a refinery is not just a case where they decide, “Hey, we’re going to build a new refinery. We have the finances.” The problem is the time it takes to build those refineries, to go through the regulatory measures. So, do I ever believe that the refinery would have ever been closed? No, I do not believe that, and honestly, I spent 37 years in that industry. I understand the oil and gas industry.

In cleaning up neighborhoods, let us know how you’d like to see the inspection of rental properties take place.

First of all, if we’re going to talk about rental properties, we’re going to talk about the landlord proposal. The administration now wants to twist it and say that was just a suggestion that they put out there. No, it was a written proposal of legislation that was very definite in its writing that they presented to Lima City Council for approval of a landlord registration that was invasive to those individuals who were paying their own rent, not government-assisted rent, saying that the city is going to come in, walk through every one of your rooms, go through your cabinets and do an inspection internally of your home.

That’s wrong. I don’t support that. I don’t support a cost factor where you’re going to make a bigger government. Government’s never been able to grow and solve problems that are there in the private sector of business. So I adamantly oppose that legislation.

It was brought up that I made a speech in the spring and talked about the out-of-town slumlords, landlords who weren’t doing their jobs, and I was going to institute a registration. That’s absolutely factual. Here was the registration: If you go online today or you go to the county auditor’s office or the treasurer’s office and you try to find out who owns a number of these properties, it will come up an LLC with an address that’s out of state. Who do I call if there’s a problem there? So what I will mandate is that every landlord assigns a person’s name and phone number who you’re able to contact at a moment’s notice to discuss problems.

But more importantly, this administration has had legislation presented to it in a very strong manner under code enforcement. They’re talking about the internal inspections. What about the exterior inspections? You drive down the street and you look at the condition of a number of these rentals. They already have the legislation in place. They have failed to do their job. And normally, what something looks like on the outside, I imagine it’s pretty convincing that the inside would appear just the same. So their inadequacies of not using legislation that they currently have available has resulted in the decline in home values.

The very first house that the county land bank tore down to help the city with the blighted housing problem and these vacated properties was on West Wayne Street. I researched who owned that property. It was owned by a rental agency out of Nevada who had bought the property, rented it as long as they could, lowering the rent as time went by because they knew the property was declining, invested no money in it and then, when they literally couldn’t rent it for any money, walked away, left the tax burden on our community and left the burden of the home there.

When you walked up to that house, as I did on that day, it was pretty easy to see that a failed code enforcement never addressed that residence. There were so many exterior deficiencies at that residence that you could have addressed that at the beginning and never let that home get in the condition that it did.

Following up on the LLCs giving a name of someone to call, couldn’t they just give their neighbor’s name?

I understand the question. Look, this is going to be mandated. We’ll put it through legislation. Here is the goal: As I was moving up the ranks of the convenience store company, an individual that I worked directly for would remind you of two things when you would call every single day. “Greed is a terrible thing.” “You get more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.” Look, the landlords in our community are a viable asset to this community to provide housing. Unfortunately, over the last 28 years, home ownership has flipped. We’re now at 45 percent home ownership, 55 percent rentals. Establish a relationship with those landlords, as I have been doing over the last number of months. Don’t always just threaten them. How about we try to work with them and saying, “Hey, we need some help here with your property”? This current administration, what they want to do is they just want to send out fines. Ultimately, what really gets addressed? It’s certainly not the condition of the houses. It will be very clear to those landlords under penalty that you’re going to provide me with the individual that our administration can call and say, “A storm came through and knocked the gutter down. The tree fell on part of the driveway, and it needs cleaned up. When are you going to get this done? You’ll give us a time and we’ll hold you accountable to that.”

For the penalty if you don’t complete it, just go to the code enforcement. It’s already there. There again, let’s try a different approach where we have a business relationship with landlords.

The out-of-town slumlords that really don’t care, as I explained to you on West Wayne Street, will become very aggressive now through your current legislation that’s already on the books, and they ultimately will get out of town.

So you’re suggesting that the current code enforcement options are not being enforced?

Absolutely. If they were being enforced, the homes wouldn’t be in the conditions they are throughout our city. You look at the homes that have been identified by the county land bank, they are in every single sector of this community. I don’t care if you’re in the north end, south end, east end or west end. There are houses in every part of our city that have deteriorated to that extent.

Tell us something you’ve learned about the city of Lima while you’ve been campaigning this year.

People. Quite frankly, it has been eye-opening, as well as a great experience, to go to individuals’ homes throughout this city, in every quadrant. Unfortunately, I have not been able to talk to every single resident, but I have talked to a number of them. That has been beneficial to get to know them and understand the issues that they are facing. They are very open about things that they need help with or things that are working. So I think the most beneficial thing that I’ve received in this campaign is to build a greater portion of the citizenry relationship than I had prior to this campaign.

I’m a people person. I love people. I like to be out there amongst them and talk to them. I’ve learned over the years that it’s better to listen than to talk. So it’s been very enjoyable to me.

Do you support the RTA levy?

First of all, the Regional Transit Authority is a viable asset in our community. The situation as it currently is is that they may lose funding based on the next budget. Nobody knows whether that’s factual at this point or not because that budget has not been voted on. The loss appears to be somewhere, if that takes place, between $800,000 and $1 million.

Look, I spent an hour and 45 minutes in a meeting speaking with the director of the RTA. The sales tax option that they are putting on the ballot raises just over $4 million. Where’s the extra money going? Who controls it and what do you do with it? That’s the problem I have.

I support the system. I talked to the commissioners, who that director had also had communication with, and I was able to open up a better line of communication between the director and the county commissioners, of which they then were trying to work out an avenue with her to maintain the system in place.

Again, I’m a businessman, so I think that, if you’re looking where you may have to face cuts, then you look at the total operations. What are the successful routes? We have many buses of large stature. That’s costly to run a big bus versus a smaller bus. You look at those buses when they drive by you and they’re certainly not full. Could there be some cost saving measures there? I believe there could be.

Also, look at the vote of their own board, which obviously is more in depth and active than any of us at this table, I would assume, and it’s a 4-3 vote. So I’m concerned about the extra $3 million and collecting that from the residents without a clear vision and plan for the residents to tell them this is where their money is going. If we have to seek other opportunities, that’s what should be done to provide the transportation necessary for individuals who don’t have their own source of transportation.

Is there anything that you want to talk about that we didn’t ask you?

Crime, because ultimately, that has been the premise of a majority of my campaign. That is because crime affects everything. It not only affects the lives that crimes are committed against, it affects the lives of those committing the crimes and, ultimately, it affects the economics factor of our city. The majority of crimes of the serious and violent nature are committed because of drugs. This administration has done a very, very poor job of addressing the real problem in Lima and that is the illicit drug epidemic and the heroin epidemic this city is facing.

My opponent’s answer was to blame the heroin epidemic on doctors and dentists. I’m offended by that. That’s not what’s been happening on our streets. These young people that have died and succumbed played with the devil through the form of heroin and they’ve lost. I’ve been to the funerals and I’ve been to the viewings of many young people, and it’s sad seeing their families in a state of despair simply because they decided to use illicit drugs.

We had a SWAT team that was inactive for nearly a year because they were not provided with safe equipment. That’s not fighting the drug trade. Go after the dealers. Drugs are all about supply and demand. It’s very simple. Go after the supply and work with the demand aspect of it. What causes the demand? Some of it, probably the majority of it is a mindset, stuck in poverty, stuck in hopelessness. So they turn, to feel better, to a drug. We have to address those things. We can’t keep turning our heads to them or, ultimately, you’re going to continue to increase the drug use. You’re going to continue to increase crime, just like we’ve seen. Where does our city end up?

What’s your view of the role Chief Martin has played and his leadership of the police department?

Unfortunately, I believe that the morale at the Lima Police Department is probably at an all-time low, and that’s unfortunate.

I believe in accountability, and I mentioned that in one of the first questions today when I said, “Hold me accountable.” I believe all too often a department head or a politician can say things to sound good, make promises and then walk away from them. I believe in accountability. Chief Martin is the executive of the Lima Police Department. To say that he didn’t know how outdated the SWAT vests were or the helmets, that’s unacceptable. If you understand that aspect of law enforcement, you know that a bulletproof vest has a five-year life expectancy due to the Kevlar breakdown. So it would be pretty simple to understand when you need to buy new vests. I look at that department and I honestly feel for the officers out there trying to do a job that don’t have the proper tools supplied to them.

That comes back to the mayor. Let me tell you, Chief Martin is the executive of the police department, but the ultimate CEO of that department, by the city charter, is the mayor of the city of Lima. That city charter states that the mayor is the “chief conservator of the peace.” It’s his responsibility to make sure that the Lima Police Department is supported, No. 1, and that the officers have the tools they need to do the job safely to protect our residents and, just as importantly, to go home every night to their families. That has not been done.

Any closing comments you would like to make?

I thank you for the opportunity and I deeply appreciate The Lima News giving all of the candidates involved in this election cycle the chance to speak to the public through this modern technology as well as to answer questions to the editorial board.

We no longer can sit back as a city and take four more years of where 28 years has led us, to an increase in poverty, a decrease in household income, an increase in crime. That no longer can happen. We need to make a change. I offer that change to the residents. I respectfully ask for their vote.

It’s very simple. I want a better Lima for all so that these families have an opportunity where, when their children go off to college or university, they’ll be able to come home and raise a family, the opportunity that existed and the safe city that existed when I was growing up. I will work every single day for this community to make these things happen. I ask for the public’s vote.

Keith Cheney addresses The Lima News editorial board during a roundtable. Cheney, chairman of the Allen County Republican Party and a local businessman, wants Lima voters to pick him Tuesday. Cheney addresses The Lima News editorial board during a roundtable. Cheney, chairman of the Allen County Republican Party and a local businessman, wants Lima voters to pick him Tuesday. Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News
Keith Cheney said he’d like to see more efforts spent by law enforcement and code enforcement in cleaning up neighborhoods. Cheney said he’d like to see more efforts spent by law enforcement and code enforcement in cleaning up neighborhoods. Craig J. Orosz | The Lima News

By Craig Kelly


See a video of this roundtable, plus see past coverage of the election at

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.

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Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.


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